Synbio Power Pitch
Meet the Semifinalists:

MPower: Microbial fuel cells for carbon-negative power generation from waste streams with microbes

Microbial fuel cells are biological analogues of traditional fuel cells, converting biomass (carbohydrates) to usable electricity power using microbes. They present a carbon-negative source for constant power generation from waste water remediation plants, generating hydrogen and methane as addition


Team: Prateek Singh, Startup, Finland

Team Nordic Bioproducts

We have found a way to make injection moldable bioplastics from a composite of PLA, Nanocellulose and fibrillated microcrystalline cellulose made out of industrial sidestreams. Our material is compostable but can also be recycled! Our material is cheaper than PLA and it is much easier to process than PLA.


Team: Olli Kähkönen, Ville Nyman, Dario Forneris, Oskari Larkimo, Eetu Satosalmi. Startup, Finland

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Team SilCO2

Fashion industry is a polluter worldwide and new generation materials are required. Spider silk is a proposed substitute, however, E. coli biofactory exhibits a high feedstock usage problem. We propose a green biofactory strategy, using atmospheric CO2 as a carbon source to produce the spider silk.


Team: Almiro Pires da Silva Neto, Adrielle Sacramento, Carolina Silva, Flavia Rodrigues, Flávia Sanches. Students, Brazil

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Bioremediation of pollutants and bio-manufacturing of a fungal laccase 2 by transgenic insects

Synthetic biologists interested in converting waste into useful products usually focus on various microbes as chassis species. A major limitation of this approach is that many waste streams must undergo substantial pre-processing and sophisticated fermentation systems are needed. The goal is often to engineer microbes to use the least costly waste stream. Black soldier flies are insects currently used to process organic waste streams on commercial scales using simple infrastructure, minimal to no pre-processing, and often without added water. Unlike microbial biomanufacturing, this waste stream provides income since insect disposal is cheaper than land-filling. The waste is typically converted to low value products such as animal feed or fertilizer although many waste streams result in insects not suitable for these purposes. We are engineering insects to express microbial/fungal enzymes to convert a wide variety of industrial waste streams into high-value products. Our proof of concept involved engineering Drosophila melanogaster to produce a fungal enzyme. The transgenic flies were able to degrade industrial pollutants in vivo. A lyophilized powder made from flies had substantial enzymatic activity which demonstrated the use of transgenic insects as enzyme biomanufacturing platforms. We now have insects expressing many classes of enzymes showing a broad potential for our approach. We have also engineered effective biocontainment systems that make engineered insects genetically incompatible with wild-type. Insect synthetic biology is an unexplored area for commercial development with substantial potential to address unmet waste-management needs. Our group is at the very forefront of this opportunity.

Team: Maciej Maselko, Kate Tepper, Michael Clark, Anwar Sunna, Kerstin Petroll, Sheemal Kumar. Researchers, Australia

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Team Transfoam

Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a bio-based plastic that offers the same durability, barrier properties and shelf life as petroplastics, yet it does not pollute the environment. The same way animals produce fat as energy storage, many bacteria do so with PHB. Driven by microbial metabolic activity, PHB’s complete biodegradation occurs in a matter of weeks in a composting plant, and in less than 2 years in both open terrestrial and marine environments. PHB’s rapid, nontoxic degradation is unmatched by any (bio or petroleum based) material of the same durability currently offered. By engineering production to take place in a single microorganism, our approach optimizes the conversion of waste to PHB, creating a more sustainable and scalable process.


Team: Alec Brewer, Simonne Guenette, Kobe Rogers,  Startup, USA

Team Zimmuti

This project seeks to develop a cyanobacteria chassis capable of synthesizing and exporting hydrophilic products such as sugars that can support E. coli production systems for high productivity in an on-demand autonomous continous-flow system. Continous-flow systems are advantagoeous in that they allow for autonomous integrated processing and control with real time monitoring which translates to improved product quality increased product qunatity, lower production costs and shorter processing times. To test the efficacy of our biomanufacturing chassis, we will produce polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) bioplastic as a proof of concept. PHAs are one of the most promising bioplastics as they are completely biodegradable, biocompatible and are from a biomass origin. PHA can be synthesized completely by microorganisms such as soil- inhabiting bacteria as well as many bacteria in activated sludge, in high seas and extreme environments. In recent years, bioplastics have been developing rapidly due to high demand to replace fossil fuel-based synthetic plastics owing to environmental concerns related to plastic pollution, rising petroleum prices and the higher job creation potential of bioplastics compared to synthetic plastics.


Team: Stephen Mukuze, Kenani Kenani, Dr. Petros Chigwechoka, Dr. Stephen Obol Opiyo, Startup, Zimbabwe

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Team ABSI Kenya

Diarrhea, caused by inadequate supply of clean water and sanitation is the leading cause of death among children in Africa, and second in the world. 27,400 children under five years (1 in 5) and an additional 10,100 people above 5 years die each year in Kenya due to diarrheal diseases alone. (Kamau and Njiru, 2018). Other than the physical suffering caused by inaccessibility to clean drinking water, a study found emotional distress as an unintended consequence as well (Kangmennaang et al.2020). There is therefore need for an affordable, accurate home deployable biosensor that will not only report on water quality but also put the minds of users at ease. This will also help in achieving the sustainable development goal number 6. (United Nations, 2015) Engineering a gene circuit for detection and reporting of indicator microbes and chemicals commonly found in drinking water in Kenya. We will validate the accuracy of the engineered biosensor using PCR and chemical assays from water obtained from slums in Kenya. Ultimately we will develop a microbial and chemical contaminant biosensor that is cheap, accurate, home deployable and easy to use. Phase 2 will Provide biodegradable plastic-based water filters for use alongside the biosensor.


Team: Machoka Richard, Mary Muturi, Bukhosi Masuku, Kelly Nyanchama, Enock Chebu, Startup, Kenya

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Team Hakai - Multiplastic degrading bacteria

Transgenic PETase and MHETase from Ideonella sakaiensis, used to degrade PET+Transgenic E1,E2 and E3 enzymes from Paenarthrobacter ureafaciens KI72, used to degrade Nylon+Enzyme synthesis of polypropylene degrading enzyme using peroxidases and hydrolases. All expressed in one strain of E. Coli capable of degrading multiple plastic polymers.

Although microbial degradation of plastics isn’t a new concept at all, our bioreactor provides a means for degrading three different types of plastics. Once these plastics are degraded, their by-products can be used in different ways like recycling them for generation of more plastic,  creating fertilizers or alternatively degrading them further to obtain  even simpler compounds like ethanol.


Team: Ranjini Mukherjee Bhavana Girish, Students, India

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Team GEnoM IIT Madras

Industrial whey wastewater discharge is of great environmental concern. With ever increasing production and wastage rates, we utilize whey to produce bacterial cellulose by engineering different strains of the K.xylinus species, paving the way for its industrial production for commercial purposes.


Team: Gayathri Prakash, Neha Swaminathan, Varshini, Jai, Dhruv, Ashvita, Ujjaval, Students, India

Team Rewow

In Europe 4 million tons of used cooking oils (UCO) are produced per year and only 5% is collected mostly for biofuel production. The rest is wrongly disposed of, polluting our environment. REWOW valorizes this waste product through a biotechnological process to produce bio-based polymers which can find applications in different fields. REWOW's idea solves the unsustainable production of fossil-based polymers and the lack of upcycle processes for UCOs. The Market for bio-based polymers is steadily increasing. The bio-based polymers proposed by REWOW are novel polymeric compounds that are not present in the market. The polymers are specifically aliphatic polyesters which can substitute other fossil-based polyolefins which, moreover, are not biodegradable. Our products derive from waste materials and they show high versatility. REWOW is developing a portfolio of products which can find application in different fields. The first product is an ingredient for cosmetic formulations used as dispersant of powders used in sunscreens and make-up. Further R&D activities will help the development of other products.


Team: Antonino Biundo, Ilaria Lorusso, Lawyer (CLO);

Alessandro Cristiano, MBA (CFO), Startup, Italy

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Our team, Chitoswitch, is developing a genetic switch that improves animal-free chitin and chitosan production from waste biomass of industrial-scale yeast and fungal fermentation processes for animal-free chitin and chitosan production.


Team: PhD candidate An Nguyen, Prof. Alexander Frey, Students and Researchers, Finland

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Team Enzymity

Enzymity is about plastics circularity - instead of waiting for mass adoption of biodegradable plastics, our idea is to make existing plastics biodegradable. At the core of the concept is enzymatic depolymerization: in other words, using custom recombinant proteins to break down plastics into monomers. The specialized enzymes are produced by a metabolically optimized host and then combined with ground-up plastic waste in a depolymerization reactor. The resulting monomers are separated and purified to serve as inputs for new virgin plastic, while the enzymes are recovered for the next depolymerization cycle. The first cases we are working on are PET and PE, while our ultimate goal is to be able to safely break down any plastic waste mix into high-grade reusable components, potentially without the need for sorting and other pre-treatment - an integrated platform for true plastics circularity!


Team: Andrii Shekhirev, Aleksejs Kolpakovs, Elina Dace, Filips Oleskovs,

Egils Stalidzans, Janis Liepins, Startup Latvia

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Team Delano

Oil palm industry can produce up to 170 million tons empty fruit bunch waste per year. What can we do to utilize this large amount of waste? We plan to engineer yeast which can convert cellulose from empty fruit bunch waste into 1-octanol based biodiesel to reduce CO2 emission of the fuel.


Team: Alfero Putra Iryanto, Dwi Grawana Chalista, Indira Prakoso,

Muhammad Farrel Ewaldo, Muhammad Ilham Fahri, Indonesia

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Team Futuro Leaf

We demonstrate the use of nanocelluloses and photosynthetic microalgae to create solid state cell factories for efficient carbon capture and sustainable biocatalytic production of fuels and chemicals. Combining synthetic biology, bio- and materials technology, these renewable platforms utilize CO2 and sunlight as virtually unlimited energy sources, promoting a transition towards circular low-carbon bioeconomy across multiple industrial sectors. In contrast to traditional cell factories based suspension culturing that only utilizes a fraction of the algae’s potential, we immobilize the cells within a porous and transparent nanocellulose matrix. This not only enhances cell viability and light utilization efficiency, but also greatly decreases the water and energy consumption of the system. The use of nanocelluloses brings many advantages over conventional immobilization materials: besides being biocompatible and highly tunable, their unique capacity to hold water enables favorable water and gas transition properties, while the nanoscaled fibrillar network provides much-needed mechanical stability and control over the density/porosity structure.


Team: Ville Rissanen, Suvi Arola, Sergey Kosourov, Yagut Allahverdiyeva,

Tekla Tammelin, Researchers and students, Finland

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Team Uniphage

Bacterial diseases in agriculture cause more than 70B USD in damages. Antibiotics and pesticides are not only increasingly ineffective but also damaging to the environment and human health. Bacteriophages, safe viruses infecting bacteria only, is one of the most promising alternatives, but the current method to select for phages against specific bacterial pathogens is almost 100 years old: it’s very outdated, manual, inefficient, and unscalable. Uniphage has developed the most efficient models to date to computationally predict phages against target bacterial pathogens to replace this process and make it possible to produce new antibacterial solutions within mere week. We will first target bacterial diseases in agriculture, starting with a currently incurable and devastating disease of citruses - citrus greening.


Team: Sofia Sigal-Passeck, Chris Lis, Vincenzo Pennisi, and Prof. Maurice Cheung

Startup, USA & Singapore

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